Hey Boo-Boo!

So, Mr. Bear has a new nickname … Boo-Boo.

It’s spring. The weather is changeable. Bear and Sam romp roughly in the paddock and, as with any skirmish in the fields there are the inevitable boo-boos. Bear now has his share.

I’m not usually at the barn when the boys are turned out in the morning. Still, I can well imagine the kicks and bucks and snorts and squeals and head-twirling, tail-wringing, teeth-baring advance and retreat that goes on. It’s particularly animated, apparently, if a turkey vulture or some other unidentified (flying) object is spotted wandering at any distance away in the adjacent hay field. Ah, the danger that lurks …

In fact, one of my own more graphic experiences with their manic response to irrelevant stimuli came one day last summer when I entered the paddock to fetch Bear. I started walking to where he was grazing, of course at the very far end of their sizeable field, and was no more than 20 steps in from the gate when I-don’t-know-what spooked the hairy pair causing them to bolt — bucking and snorting and galloping at high velocity in mesmerizing whirling zig zags back and forth across the paddock in front of me.

It’s difficult to describe how it feels to see two 1,200 lb equine out-of-control torpedoes barrelling down on you. (It’s possible they were racing to see who could get to me first, or simply entertaining me … or themselves … or all three … .)

Yelling “Whoa, boys!” at the top of my lungs was about all I could do while standing my ground and acting like everything was normal.

Of course, I knew they weren’t going to run into me and, indeed, they came to a dead stop within 20 feet of my adrenalin-beseiged position. They then sidled their way over to me as if nothing had happened and blew inquiringly into my hands in search of their much-adored carrots.

These are creatures that live in the moment … And I must too.

So, getting back to Boo-Boo.

Imagine that kind of energy directed into horse play. There are bound to be a few boo-boos.

Sam, being the “in-your-face” kind of horse he is, has a knack for leaving dental imprints on my horse’s neck and face. Poor Bear! And then one day this week I entered the barn and out of nowhere greeted him with “Hey, Boo-Boo!”

This made me chuckle.

Why?

Well, it brought back memories. Memories of when I was a little girl who loved Hanna-Barbera cartoons, particularly the adventures of Yogi Bear and his sidekick, Boo-Boo. Remember Jellystone Park?

In case you aren’t familiar with these two whimsical characters, here’s an episode (seven minutes in length), just for fun. Why not grab a drink and a biscuit and share a moment of my childhood …

 “Genial Genie”

As well, my most treasured stuffed animal was a Boo-Boo bear. He proved a great comfort to me at times of great personal upheaval and family crisis. I was moved around a lot in my early years and Boo-Boo went everywhere with me. I hugged him until he was threadbare and optically-challenged. His life as my security blanket came to a sad and abrupt end when I was about 10 years old, courtesy of the family dog.

Boo-Boo was laid to rest. I was devastated. 😦

Still, life goes on and here I am, decades later, recalling something I hadn’t thought of for ages simply because my beautiful horse named “Bear” has sustained a few boo-boos!

Funny, that.

Now, it wouldn’t do to leave you with the impression that Bear doesn’t stick up for himself. On the contrary …

Last week after a ride I put Bear into his paddock for some turnout time. Sam was already there. As usual, after I’ve closed the gate I pulled up clumps of long, luscious grass, complete with dandelions, that Bear can’t reach and gave it to him through the fence as a special treat. Usually if Sam’s in the vicinity I’ll give him some too, but on this occasion he was off grazing in the distance. My attention was solely on Bear and he was lapping it up.

When Sam caught sight of our one-on-one time he trotted up and shoved his way in on the action. This precipitated an unexpected response in Bear. He pinned his ears, spun on his back heels and aggressively lunged at Sam with teeth bared to chase him away. He wanted the grass (and me 🙂 ) all to himself.

The boys do have a friendly rivalry, and most of the time they just hang out eating grass, but occasionally they will have a set-to to re-establish boundaries. Sam can be pushy, but Bear can certainly hold his own. There are welt marks on Sam’s back to prove it.

All this leads me to say that none of us get through life without the odd small skirmish and boo-boo. We live in a society that seems to want to protect us and, more specifically, our children, from everything that builds character, fortitude, faith, et al, lest we get hurt.

Speaking as a survivor, the fact is if we don’t learn from an early age how to manage life’s small skirmishes, how will we ever cope with the larger personal battles we must all face as we get older?

To prevent Bear from getting boo-boos I’d have to ask the barn owners to separate him from Sam. This would not be fair, nor would it be constructive. My horse is a very social creature and needs the stimulation of companionship or he gets lonely and anxious. Better that he should live with a few physical boo-boos than suffer the anguish of separation.

Boo-boo or no boo-boo, Bear is still the most beautiful horse in the world to me.

Our boo-boos, physical or otherwise, serve as markers reminding us of what we’ve tackled and how we’ve survived. They represent the stories that give us character and the moments that show us how to thrive if we learn their lessons well.

And, if we’re lucky, there’ll be someone who really cares standing by the gate with carrots in one hand and a jar of salve in the other prepared to help us along the way.

*

This has been a bit of a long meander. I hope it’s taken you somewhere worthwhile.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

… and this is Bear …

I love to admire my handsome Bear. In person or by image, his incredible beauty in body and spirit always brightens my day. He is the perfect panacea when I’m feeling blue.

And, as far as I’m concerned, he is the most beautiful horse in the whole world. (Every horse mom thinks their equine baby is the most beautiful in the world … ) And why not? He is, after all, my de facto “child” — the recipient of the tender ministrations my own children might have received had I been able to have any.

As the proud Mama Bear (I just made that up! Ha! 🙂 ) of this 10-year-old, 16.3 hand, dark bay Hanoverian boy of superior handsomeness, I naturally feel compelled, on occasion, to whip out the old (well, new) Nikon D7000 and photograph him ad nauseam. And, as any proud parent would I share, and gush, over the images with my friends and family, whether they want to see them or not.

In the spirit of the proud parent, today’s post is a quasi photo album of Bear’s Wednesday training session with my friend Christine in the saddle.

A quiet and gifted rider, Christine occasionally babysits and rides Bear for me when my health or travels won’t permit. Bear adores her, which pleases me, for as every parent knows … it’s important to have a reliable and trustworthy baby sitter.

So, let’s get started …

So, here he is working at the trot. … Oh, what a handsome boy!! … And look how beautifully decked out he is in pale pink polo bandages to match Christine’s shirt! … Like me, Christine feels that colour co-ordination is important. I doubt that Bear cares one way or the other, but if I’m happy, he’s happy. … Besides looking smart the bandages actually serve as protection for his delicate lower legs where the hardworking tendons and ligaments hug the cannon bone just below the skin’s surface. Such fragile beasties …

… and this is Bear taking a break between exercises. Look at the blue highlights reflected in his coat. Just gorgeous! …

… and this is Bear and Christine executing a canter circle. See how all his weight (and Christine’s) is balanced momentarily on his left front foot? … His relaxed facial expression, softly swishing tail and expressive ears tell me he’s in the happy zone. What a good boy …

… and this is a partial view of Bear’s beautiful hind quarters. … So glad to have caught his lucky horse shoe … I spend more on his footwear than I do on my own! But he has a superior blacksmith and it’s worth every penny to know he’s soundly shod. … And look at that muscle tone! Like a rock! He’s just so athletic … I actually find it annoying when people make disparaging remarks involving the horse’s hind quarters. It’s a very powerful part of the equine anatomy and worthy of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Together with that shod hoof it can seriously maim or, with enough force, even kill! …

… and this is Bear at the end of the training session. He’s demonstrating his relaxed and submissive state by stretching through his back and continuing to reach for a connection with Christine even though she has released the tension on the reins. Happy boy, happy mom … 🙂

… and this is Bear’s foamy (like cappuccino froth) muzzle … more evidence that he was happy and relaxed in his work. Bear has a reputation at the barn for superior foaminess … That’s my boy! …

… and this is Bear giving me the wooly eyeball, wondering what the heck I’m doing. Love those blue overtones … so handsome! …

… and this is Bear fishing at Christine’s hand for a treat. He received plenty of love … and carrots. He’s such a good boy …

… and this is Bear enjoying a post-workout nosh. Sun, grass, dandelions … a happier horse you’ll never see!

*

There … my pride and joy … my beautiful boy.

Thanks for your time.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Ham Horse Gallery … Dissecting The Shakespearean Roll

I’m feeling a little lost for words this week. Lots on my mind and nothing particularly orderly.

So, I thought instead, to treat you to a little Shakespeare “The Equine.” Fresh from Poet’s Paddock and ready to roll (as it were …)

Please enjoy this play-by-play of one of Shakepeare’s aka Bear’s favourite paddock pastimes  — the Shakespearean role  roll.

The commentary is all his …

Greetings!

Scene I: … The key to an inspired Shakespearean roll beginneth with the stage. Seek the darkest and muckiest of spots, soft from early spring showers that refresheth. Yonder hay, though dry, may looketh inviting but is best left untouched. One must not play with one’s food. …

Scene II: … With the utmost delicacy and decorum drop gracefully to thy knees and grunt …

Scene III: … Silence, stillness doth punctuate the moment. Rest briefly to recoup thy dignity …

Scene IV: … At last, to collapse in Mother Earth’s sweet muddy embrace and delight in the warmth of Father Sun. … A part to be savoured. …

Scene V … Sustained, perchance another moment’s meditation before the next soliloquy …

Scene VI: … Wh … hoo!! …

7) … Tis a fact well known among this poet’s circle that only steeds of superior intellect, such as I, can rolleth all the way over and …

Scene VIII: … back again. …

Scene IX: … Ah! Of a certainty that feeleth much better …

Scene X: … This roll created for myself is well played! …

Scene XI: … but when it’s over, alas, tis over. … And yet, tis worth remembering … the play’s the thing … See you anon in Poet’s Paddock!

12) The End …

Nice play, Shakespeare!

Nurture what you love…

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

Ham Horse Gallery

My horse Bear (aka Shakespeare) is a classic ham who endears himself to all who meet him and enjoys being the centre of attention. Herewith the first of a series of mini galleries to run intermittently in this blog, featuring the antics of my very own “comic” Shakespeare. Enjoy!

Right: Recently I took my new Nikon D7000 out for a spin at the farm. Bear and his buddy, Sam, were in the paddock minding their own business when I strolled into view. As if on cue they stopped chomping on hay and most obligingly embarked in a game of halter tag for my benefit.

In this image both have their eye on me as if to ask, “Hey, are you getting this?” As you can see, it was almost a miss …

Left: Bear has a treat habit, thus he always expects there to be something in his bucket, especially when I’m around. On this particular day last summer his bucket was empty and he had an opinion about it he felt inclined to share with me.

In the warmer months he spends a lot of the day outside, so I will amuse him with apple bobbing at the water trough (one apple cut into segments — he’s bobbing, not me … I just facilitate) and then put a healthy serving of carrots and a stud muffin into his bucket for him to discover when he comes in. I cover his treats with hay to keep the flies out, and he gets to dig for his treat treasure. He’s so easily amused …

On this occasion Bear was extremely disappointed to discover his bucket empty. So, (and I watched him do it) he grabbed a large helping of hay from the generous pile in his stall as if to show me what was missing and then dumped it into the aisle beneath the door through which his grain and other tender morsels are delivered to his bucket.

Almost instantly a bemused look crossed his face, as if he’d realized that he’d just thrown the baby out with the bath water. This image depicts his effort to retrieve the discarded hay. In the end I had to help him, silly horse …

Right: Summer at the farm is a lovely time, however flies pose a particularly annoying menace. Deer flies, horse flies, bots, mosquitoes (you name it) are a nasty warm weather nuisance and are particularly hard on our pampered equine friends.

However, there are only so many things that can be done to protect the darlings from flying predators. I have adopted two — a liberal spraying all over Bear’s body with a naturally formulated fly repellant every time he goes outside, and a fly mask to keep the little blighters out of his eyes.

In this image Bear (the brat) models his brand new fly mask which sports the latest in synthetic mesh visors and black fake fleece trim. Not spoiled at all, is he?

Did I mention he’s a ham?

Stay tuned for more from the Ham Horse Gallery in future posts of “Musings of a Horse Mom.”

Nurture what you love ….

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

The Sky is Falling … Or Not …

Horses and ice don’t mix.

An icy paddock means no self-exercise for my four-hooved child sporting steel shoes on a slippery surface. He may as well be ice skating which, frankly, I don’t even want to think about.

And ice plunging in thunderous chunks from the roof of the indoor arena while my baby is struggling to hold himself together? Well, the sky may as well be falling.

Yesterday I arrived at the barn ready to ride. I was feeling good following a weekend of low energy and exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue has, in the short term, severely cramped my active life style and I live day to day, making very few plans and getting lots of rest. Because I felt well yesterday and it was so beautiful and sunny after a weekend of snow and below zero, I was looking forward to spending some time in the saddle.

It was our usual routine … I fetched Bear from his paddock, groomed him, tacked him up, put on my helmet and headed to the arena for some play time. In the aisle outside the arena we stopped briefly so I could make a final adjustment to Bear’s bridle. That’s when I heard it … the unmistakable crash, bang, wallop of ice plummeting from the roof — the warning to re-think my strategy

Drat!

And I knew there was no way to work around it. Bear had heard the crashing too. His ears pricked earnestly toward the arena door; his eyes bulging like painted brown ping pong balls and his nostrils fluttering with worry told me his focus was not on me and wouldn’t be until this stress had been addressed.

Just like that my plan to ride was shattered much like the ice crashing  from the roof under the mid-day sun.

So, we went to Plan ‘B.”

I removed Bear’s tack, left it on the saddle tree and lead Bear, all on his toes and worried, into the arena. I could see by his expression that the only way to get by the fear was to go through it, so I unhooked the lead shank from his halter and let him rip.

Bear tore around that 200ft x 70ft arena like he was being chased by the devil himself.

Letting him loose and watching him shake his demons is awe-inspiring. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s jumping and skipping in time with his arhythmic shenanigans as he bucks and snorts and reels and chases around me sometimes at such a velocity I almost can’t watch. And when the ice clunks down along the outside of the walls and crashes to the ground you’d think, given his leaping over-reaction, that the sky was indeed falling.

Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin, with whom I worked for a while, says horses, because of their prey nature, are “victims waiting to happen.” This is evident to me every time I see, and feel, my horse spook at nothing. It’s almost as if he’s looking for something to worry about. So imagine his animation when he supposes there is something  (a chunk of ice) crouching in the shadows waiting to pounce upon him.

I’ve learned to let Bear get things out of his system in his own way and time. It took about 10 minutes for him to come to terms with his ice demons. He finally stopped about 20 feet away from me, puffing and blowing out what remained of his anxiety, and lowered his head to signal he was done having a hissy fit. But I wasn’t so sure, and since we had the time I decided to test his new head space.

I walked to him and gave him a pat on the neck. His sides were heaving from his exertion but his eye was soft, telling me he was feeling just fine. I turned and he followed me, of his own free will, to the centre of the arena where we stopped. I rewarded him with a sugar cube and then walked another five feet in front before turning to face him again. Bear was relaxed, his head low, floppy ears twitching to the sound of my voice. My “victim” had become a quiet, confident horse.

Or had he?

We stood quietly for a while. Whenever his gaze wandered I brought him back to me simply by shifting, ever-so slightly, my body language. When he took a step toward me, I asked him to step back. This continued for about 10 minutes until he paid me the ultimate compliment — a great, big, fat yawn. This didn’t mean he was bored. Far from it. In fact, he was totally relaxed and engaged in my presence, which is as it should be.

Then the test for which I’d been waiting.

“Crash … bang … rumble, rumble … crash … ker-plunk … boom!

Directly behind him outside and as loud as any of the others we’d witnessed a sheet of ice crashed from the roof.

And Bear did … nothing. Okay, he flinched, a little, but his attention remained on me; he didn’t move. He trusted me enough to stay connected to me during an episode which 20 minutes earlier would have sent him reeling. And I didn’t have to do anything but be there with him. He figured it out all on his own and I had the pleasure of participating in his process.

This is one of my favourite things about being with Bear — together we work through our individual and collective demons, building trust on the ground and in the saddle.

I probably could have ridden Bear after that, but decided not to bother. We’d already succeeded and were feeling good about it. Instead we went back to his stall where he was fussed over and spoiled with carrots … the perfect way to end our visit.

Today is overcast so with any luck the ice, whatever’s left of it, will hold, the sky will not fall and Bear and I will enjoy saddle play.

Of course, there’s always Plan “B.”

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
“Horse Mom:”

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

1,200 lbs Of Opinion

Who me? ...

If I’ve given the impression that my horse, my beautiful Bear, is all sweetness and light, let me set the record straight … he is, and he is not.

And, don’t be deceived by the “Who me?” expression captured in this image. It’s just his way of sucking you into his “horses are perfect” fantasy world.

Bear is a horse. Horses are prey. Prey animals fight or flee when they feel threatened and uncomfortable. In Bear’s case, there may be an opinion attached to it.

Usually I can count on Bear to be attentive, responsive and obedient. However, he is a horse with a mind of his own that’s easily distracted and prone to flights of fancy. As one can imagine, this can get in the way of any common sense that might exist in the recesses of his busy mind.

In his defence, he is a Warmblood, a Hanoverian, in fact, and Warmbloods are notorious for over-reacting to unexpected stimuli. For example, a plastic bag blowing in the wind may as well be a mountain lion. It’s why these horses are sometimes affectionately referred to as “dumb bloods.” They are bred to be powerful sport horses but are often slow to mature in their minds. Training takes patience … and years.

When they find their groove their energy can be explosive. And as long as you can keep up with them, they’ll give you the ride of your dreams. And this is what keeps us crazy horse people going back for more.

However, their hyper-sensitivity verging on stupidity when combined with power poses an interesting training challenge. I call it “riding 1,200 lbs of opinion.”

The training road Bear and I have travelled in the past six years has been a bumpy one. Finally in the last few months we’ve been finding and maintaining that elusive connection and most of my rides have been pretty dreamy.

Bear has been waiting patiently (and sometimes not so patiently ) for me to refine my skills so that he can do what he was bred and trained to do — be a sport horse. At long last, and to our mutual relief, it’s all coming together as manifested in Bear’s more expressive movement — his stride is more elevated, his back more engaged, his connection to my hand through the reins more consistent. He’s more content in his work now and, as a result, less forgiving if I screw up.

Yesterday, with a head cold begging for attention, I wasn’t riding that well and Bear called me on it.

How does 1,200 lbs of opinion do this?

First, he looks for an escape route. In this case Bear tried to leave the 20 meter trot circle we’d been working on by simply ignoring what he considered to be my less than precise cues. When I gently but firmly attempted to correct him he persisted in his dumb blood moment, stopping dead in his tracks and having a hissy fit. A little buck here; a kick and a side wind there; a twirl or spin here again; head up; nostrils snorting; tail spinning — all as if I’d asked him to trot past the den of that mountain lion! All in a matter of seconds.

There was no point in arguing with him as this only escalates his bad behaviour. Instead I gave us both a moment to collect ourselves (him for his mind to settle, me to take a breath — jeepers!) and then insisted through more relaxed body language and firmer cues that he listen to me and go forward.

But Bear wouldn’t have it. Four tantrums on the circle and then a silly, explosive spook provoked by a couple of horses chasing each other in the paddock beside the arena put us both in an unhappy place.

Bear was wired and belligerent, but I was determined not to get drawn into his drama. With the assistance of my coach we gradually and quietly worked Bear down from his high horse (ha!) and into a sympathetic contact where he could once again relax and trust the process. By the end of our session he was putty in my hands and acting as if nothing had happened.

Of course, it’s all forgotten now. I was at the barn today and Bear just batted his baby browns at me and nickered for his precious carrots.

Tomorrow we’ll train again and with any luck I’ll ride better and my 1,200 lbs of opinion will be able to keep it to himself.

So you see, my sweet little satsuma-eating, social butterfly is also a one-horse power dynamo souped up on opinion with no apologies.

That’s my boy!

Nurture what you love ,

Dorothy
Horse Mom